Inside the ER at Mt. Everest

Dr. Luanne Freer, founder of the mountain’s emergency care center, sees hundreds of patients each climbing season at the foot of the Himalayas

At the base of Mount Everest sits Everest ER, a medical clinic that deals with headaches, diarrhea, upper respiratory infections, anxiety and other physical ailments daily. (Molly Loomis)

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There have also been mountain guides who say that although they are grateful for the care the doctors provide, they lament Everest Base Camp’s ever expanding infrastructure of which Everest ER is just another example. Everest ER lessens an expedition’s ethic of self-reliance and the all-around know-how on which the guiding profession prides itself.

But nonetheless, since Everest ER first rolled back the tent flap, the clinic has seen over 3,000 patients. Among the approximately 30 critical cases, there have been causes for celebrating as well, including marriage proposals, weddings and women who discover that their nausea and fatigue are due not to dysentery, but a long- awaited pregnancy. The spring of 2012 will mark Everest ER’s tenth anniversary.

“After nine seasons, if we have significantly impacted 30 lives, if we helped return 30 people to their families, that is an amazing bit of work. Even one makes it worth all the effort,” says Freer.

“But 30? Wow, that’s something to feel good about.”


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